When I started MavenHut, one of my co-founder was always telling me: ask for a discount. And I didn’t. Because I felt awkward doing it.
But I was the CEO of the company, so I had to overcome whatever I was feeling, because we were in survival mode and every dollar mattered.
Then we started talking to advertising companies and he said: we should ask for a coupon code to test their services. By this time, I asked the question. Still felt shitty doing it, but at least I did it.
And you know what? We got around $50,000 in free advertising from the first ever event we went to (Casual Connect Europe 2013). We talked to a lot of advertising companies. And we asked for coupons to test their services. I admit, most of the traffic was really, really bad, but some of it proved good enough. And we were a startup just starting. It really made a difference in those early days of User Acquisition.
Before going further, let me tell you this: it is a looong email. And it might not look so good in the email client of your choice because I have some example screenshots from emails where I got discount. So it might be better if you go to this link, on The CEO Library, and read it in the browser: Ask for discounts 3 times to get it once (maybe)
What was I saying? Ah, right: what I’m saying here is that you need to overcome the awkwardness of asking for a discount. The way I see it, if someone asked me, I would probably give a discount to someone 90% of the time. And I wouldn’t think it weird. It’s business negotiation, after all.
I had an employee several years ago that said this: “Why would I give a discount? If I give a discount, my work will not be as good, because I already gave you the value of my full work and you didn’t accept it!”. Just to make it clear, he was talking about freelance work, not about his salary. At least, I hope so :)
I don’t agree with working less if you give a discount – don’t take the contract! – but I agree that some people aren’t comfortable giving one. And that’s ok. But that shouldn’t stop YOU from asking one. Especially if the discount you’re looking is for some online service, course and the likes.
Why ask 3 times, you wonder? This is my experience: if someone doesn’t give you a discount in those 3 times, they won’t give you one.
Do you send 3 emails saying “give me a discount”? No, of course. Well, yes, but you ask in different ways.
“I’m interested in your service, but is it possible to get a discount?”
“I understand, but it would make it a little bit easier for me to spend this amount. What is a good way to make a discount possible? ”
“If there’s no possibility of a discount to this tier, what if I pay for this tier and maybe get the higher tier?”
Usually by this time I get a discount. Around 5-10%, just to give you an idea. Now, you need to fully understand what a “discount” means. Sometimes, if you just want to get the basement price at a discount, that might not be possible. But what you can, usually, do, is get more for the same money. And I usually go for this solution, since I’m already interested in the service/solution offered, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to the providers.
Finally, just to make some things clear:
not everyone will give you discounts
sometimes the discounts mean you need to spend more (like the yearly vs. monthly discounts for online services)
sometimes the discounts are actually upgrades to a higher tier (hotels and car rentals do that all the time)
sometimes the discount is already offered somewhere, but you don’t know about it (like in a newsletter you’re not subscribed to). Just by asking, they will extend that discount to you as well.
understand the context (yours and theirs): if you want to rent a car in Portugal during full summer season, no way you’re getting a discount. You should be happy with a regular price during that time. On the other hand, if you rent in February-March in Algarve… well, I rented a new VW Golf for €3/day for 2 weeks.
if you can, get on a call with the person or meet face to face. It makes it easier to get the discount.
Here are some examples from my own experience, because I know you want them. There are some screenshots, as well. If you can’t see them, at the end of the section there are the links to the images, so you can copy/paste them in a browser. Now, the examples:
1. In one of my companies I wanted to work with a specific platform that wanted a long term contract (at least one year). I was uncomfortable with that because I didn’t know if they would provide the value I was looking for so I asked for a month to month contract. In the end, not only they allowed for the month to month contract, but they gave me unlimited use for the first month, to be able to fully understand the service.
Here are screenshots from the 2 emails.
2. Another example, from a service provider who I talked to on the phone and I asked for a discount there: he sent me the invoice, giving me a 10% discount. Think accountant, lawyer, this type of service provider.
3. And, finally, let me tell you the best story about a discount I know. This didn’t happen to me, but to my fiancée.
Years ago, around 2012, she wanted to go to London to a course about creating or improving a web business. The course was quite expensive: $2000 for a week of live workshops. Then I told her: look, for this amount, why don’t you ask for a discount? Even 10% is still $200. That’s enough to pay for for a night in London at a regular hotel (yes, the city is really expensive!)
She didn’t want to, initially. “Why would he give me a discount?” she asked.
After several days of me pushing her, she finally caved and wrote an email. First of all, I admit, there was a combination of lucky facto rs:
she had the same name as the course owner’s wife (we didn’t know that initially)
she previously bought his book (on Amazon Kindle, for like $10 or something)
she previously (several months earlier) wrote him an email asking something about things mentioned in the book
The answer? An email with a discount. The discount? 100%. Yes, 100%. I didn’t believed it initially, I thought there was some nefarious reason behind it. But no, it was a genuine 100% discount. Here’s the screenshot from that email:
Of course, going to London, paying for the plane tickets, a week of hotel and food was already expensive, but at least she didn’t pay for the course. And she really enjoyed the content. It also got her a client for the illustration work she was (and is) doing.
Let me remind you again: Asking for discounts works. Not all the time, of course, but why not ask? What’s the worst that can happen?
A lot of people don’t do this because they feel likfe they’re poor and they can’t afford the service. They feel judged. poor. They feel like they’re taking advantage of that person/company.
Unfortunately, I can’t help you there. If you afford to pay full service price, do it. Once MavenHut, my company, started to have better revenues, we stopped asking for a discount as often as we did. But we still did it from time to time. Because we were still a startup, still growing, and every amount matters.
And, by the way, if you ever provided services to big companies (and I talk about billion dollar companies), you already know they ALWAYS ask for discounts. ALWAYS. If they’re not rich enough to ask for a discount, why would you be?
And just to have it written: I don’t think the people/companies that give discounts are fools and that I’m smarter than them or anything like that. No way! I think this is a really bad way to look at the process. I just think that it’s a business and everything can be negotiated (at least you cant try to). I don’t look differently at a person that gives me a discount vs. one that doesn’t. It’s just one more question in the process of acquiring something (usually a service).